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The Birmingham Aero Club Air Show


Members Olivia Davidson, Mike Jared, and Connie Smith watch the acts at the Wings and Wheels Air Show

The Birmingham Aero Club has a proud tradition of producing quality air shows.  In fact, one of the organization's first major accomplishments after its inception in 1932 was to facilitate production of The National Air Carnival, one of the largest such events being held in the United States at that time. By the end of the 1930's, hundreds of thousands of spectators attended this annual event at the Birmingham Municipal Airport.  Some of the biggest names in aviation attended, either as performers, guests, or spectators.  

The National Air Carnival was an event on a grand scale and included beauty pageants along with balls featuring the era's most popular musical entertainers.  The Carnival wasn't held during the World War II years, but grew even larger after the end of the war breaking all records for attendance with 400,000 people attending the free show over two days in 1946.  Guests of the Carnival included such aviation notables as Captain E. V. (Eddie) Rickenbacker, Major General Jimmy Doolittle, Brigadier General Clair Chennault, and Colonel Roscoe Turner.  The show attracted the attention of Robert L. Ripley and resulted in his coming to Birmingham to broadcast it as the "Believe-It-Or-Not" of aviation.

The massive free air shows were discontinued in the 1950's due to increased traffic at the Birmingham Municipal Airport.  In 1964 an annual fly-in and aviation exposition was established called the "Southeastern Aircraft Exposition".  Visitors to the Exposition could see military flying exhibitions, aerobatics by special guests, and could attend aviation seminars.  The show underwent changes again, and by the 1970's became the aerobatic show produced today, being held at the Bessemer and Shelby County Airports.

One of the longest continuously running aviation events in the United States, the Birmingham Aero Club's Wings and Wheels Air Show continues to provide an introduction to aviation to thousands of spectators on an annual basis.  Each year features nationally recognized aerobatic acts along with skydivers, classic automobiles, and other entertainment.  Many local pilots, including general aviation, commercial, and military, received their first airplane ride at this show in aircraft donated and piloted by Birmingham Aero Club members.

Proceeds from the annual air show are used to provide funds for scholarships administered by the Thurston W. Sumner Flight Education Program, and for support of the Southern Museum of Flight.

  

The annual air show provides a great opportunity for members to get involved in club activites.  Above, from left, Cathy Cawthon cooks Zeigler hot dogs for a hungry air show crowd, Kris Rayfield sells T-Shirts, and Lane Wooley pilots while Bill Schultz loads an excited passenger during the ever-popular air show air rides.

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